Where do I buy clothes?
January 6, 2012 5:06 PM   Subscribe

Where do I buy clothes?

I've lost 40 pounds over the course of the last year and am in the "normal" women's sizes for the first time in a long while. But I don't know where to buy clothes. All the choices are overwhelming to me, and when I get overwhelmed by choices I'll retreat and end up with nothing.

Here's what I need:
- Women's clothing
- Size XL or 14/16
- In Austin, TX
- Not too pricey, since I'm still losing weight
- Not frumpy, not uber-trendy, but cute (and appropriate for someone in their 40s). I wear a lot of shorts (this is Texas), capris, and so on; not so much dresses and skirts. Wrap shirts are my new favorite thing.

So for instance, I recently discovered that I could buy jeans at Old Navy and that was great, but I'm not really into their shirts. I've looked at places like Ross, Marshall's, and TJ Maxx, but the "Holy hell, so much stuff!" instinct kicks in and I slink out of there. If I need to go someplace like, say, Target, then that's fine, but I just don't know where to start.
posted by Addlepated to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maurices is a little more expensive than Old Navy, decent quality, and mostly not-too-young clothes (i.e. not cut too skimpy or body-conscious). The store won't overwhelm you with choices. They have locations in Austin.

Target isn't a bad idea at all to try, honestly. They have cute, cheap, basic stuff there. The Merona line often has stuff worth looking at, and the turnover (getting new styles in) is pretty fast.
posted by flex at 5:41 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: New York & Company is one of my favorites. They have good sales, and the clothes are very cute without looking too young. I also like Maurices for casual clothes.
posted by lindseyg at 5:47 PM on January 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I am an 18/20 and like some of the stuff at Eddie Bauer, and they seem to have sales on constantly. I also get alot of tops at Target, where the trick seems to be to check frequently because they'll bring out a few new shirts or sweaters and a week later they are picked over and almost gone. Lands End can be nice. Sometimes I end up at Kohls when I am willing to slog through the racks, but it feels like alot of work to find one or two things that look nice.
posted by cabingirl at 5:50 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: I third Target for good tops. I think they knock off Garnet Hill and Boden. I like the fit of Gap pants and jeans but I only buy on sale there.
posted by momochan at 5:59 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: Maurices also vanity sizes big time. I now wear a size 12 pant but when I was a size 14 I could wear size 11/12 without problem. Actually, the 11/12 were too big.

Do you have Ann Taylor loft? I have some luck there.

If wrap tops look good on you, you probably have an hourglass figure. Look for jersey tops and fine gauge sweaters in scoop necks and v-necks. Avoid chunky knits at all costs. Form-fitting cardigans over a simple knit tank is a nice look, too.
posted by Fairchild at 6:00 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: And speaking of knit tanks and Target, Mossimo brand at Target has the best tanks ever. They are soft and hold their shape and are better than JCrew or any other tanks I have found.
posted by Fairchild at 6:03 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: Hi, I'm in Austin and we're very similar in size, so we should shop together. (Seriously, Memail me.)

I shop a lot of Eddie Bauer and Gap and also occasionally--this may surprise you--Victoria's Secret for tops. I wear Gap and Old Navy tanks underneath things that are too revealing.
posted by immlass at 6:16 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: J Jill - sizes run large and they have good sales if you sign up for the emails.
posted by sulaine at 6:20 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Ann Taylor Loft and J. Jill. They are small enough stores that you can avoid that overwhelming feeling.

Also, in Austin there are some really outstanding resale shops, if you don't mind wearing second-hand clothes.

I like Second Time Around on Burnet Rd. for nicer work-type stuff.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:24 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: I like Gap and Victoriasecret.com for clothes because the sizes are consistent, there is always something on sale and the stuff looks right on me.

I also get that overwhelmed feeling when shopping for clothes. I've started making it into a game. I can only buy something that is on sale and it must be something that I need and want.

I wear dresses as much as possible. La. summers are sweaty and dresses are the coolest option. Casual, washable, well made dresses are not the easiest to find. I continue my game with always looking for one. Even if I'm only buying shoes that day, I look for the dress.

Dresses are also a great option since you are continuing to lose. Some are more forgiving with size. You can buy one that fits just right and then wear it loose and casual once you are slimmer.
posted by myselfasme at 6:41 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: Lane Bryant Wrap dress and tops from Christopher Banks?
posted by vitabellosi at 6:55 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: I think you should give thrift stores a chance. When my weight changed I got some really great clothes- whole summer wardrobe for about 100. Literally about 40 pieces. Today I got a seemingly new Arcteryx fleece (retails about 120.00) for 3.99.

Savers and Salvation Army are my go tos.
posted by beccaj at 7:00 PM on January 6, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Since you're still in transition, I'd suggest Kohl's. They often have excellent bargains, and I find their clothes hold up better than at similarly priced stores, especially after many washings. Kohl's has a lot of XL and 14/16 sizes in both classic and trendy styles. Kohl's also has an excellent return policy.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 7:08 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Michael Kors has some really excellent plus size clothes in your size. I'd check out ebay if you're trying to save cash.
posted by devymetal at 7:13 PM on January 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding Kohl's.
posted by Polgara at 7:40 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: I'm about your size and at a similar loss for where to shop. When I do find something it's usually like this: Target for tops and dresses if you wear them. Also Old Navy sometimes for tops, maybe jeans, definitely stretchy pants, leisure wear and anything else that no one will see. I mostly buy jeans at the Gap. Coldwater Creek and J. Jill are good for less-structured clothing that is usually comfortable. I call them "old lady stores," but I buy things from them that I wear a lot, especially when they're on sale. If you get on Coldwater Creek's mailing list, they'll send you coupons every week or so it seems.

I am very frugal about clothes, so I figured out what I will actually wear (black knit tops with some kind of flowiness in the stomach area and long-sleeved button downs that are somewhat fitted and they have to be all - or almost all - cotton). Having that kind of knowledge of what I will wear and what will be banished to the back of the closet has made shopping easier. It's much more productive to look inward for your style choices than to look for fashionable things that don't necessarily suit you.
posted by bendy at 8:16 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: Kohl's is good. Are there still Dillard's anchor stores in various malls? If so that's always been a great place to find professional clothes - you think it's all granny stuff, but it's really not.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:27 PM on January 6, 2012

Best answer: You might want to also check out JC Penney. If you're having trouble navigating TJ Maxx (and I understand the feeling!) I don't think thrift stores are probably a good option for you.

Also, since you're still losing weight, don't buy a whole lot of stuff. Think about what you really need, and make sure it all goes with the other items in your wardrobe (including bigger clothes that still look good on you). I could get away with wearing the same three bottoms and 6-7 tops to work every week if I chose to (and if I were less lazy about doing laundry).
posted by mskyle at 5:43 AM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: +1 on thrift stores -- you have to some digging and put some time into it, but when you find things, they will be amazing. People change sizes all the time and it is very easy to, in a few trips, find barely worn (if not actually unworn, tags on) Banana-Republic-level trousers, for example. Cozy sweatshirts are a dime a dozen; I wouldn't buy new lounging clothes if you're still losing. Same with coats -- after pregnancy I ended up gaining quite a bit, and then lost even more, and over all that was dumb enough to buy a few new coats. Ouch, financially.

You can find lots of clothing, often running around $150, on eBay; you'll get a huge box of stuff in your size. This can be okay if you have the time to consignment-store the stuff that doesn't work for you.

Are you willing to shop on-line? I am a big fan of Lands' End Canvas -- up to size 14 only, but sometimes a bit size-inflated and possibly workable? Great sales (try retailmenot.com, and "fan" on Facebook or follow on Twitter for regular "25% off everything plus free shipping" deals), and very "Not frumpy, not uber-trendy, but cute (and appropriate for someone in their 40s)." Modern preppy. J. Crew without the silly stuff or big prices. Their send-it-back-anytime return policy is great; buy with confidence. Lands' End has some good staples, good sales, too, but leans a little more towards 'frump' sometimes.

I have sworn off ever going in an Old Navy again after too much frustration with ridiculously bad quality. Possible to find cool stuff there at good prices, if you look carefully? Sure. But the risks of buying junk just got too high. (Lands' End occasionally misses too, but I don't mind since they act happy when I mail it back to them.)
posted by kmennie at 7:41 AM on January 7, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice! I definitely have some ideas on where to turn for clothing now. I think part of my problem with getting overwhelmed is when I have a particular item that I need to buy and I feel pressure to get it. Maybe I'd enjoy thrifting if I just go in and explore with no goals in mind.
posted by Addlepated at 8:20 AM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: Yes, try thrifting! I'm about your size, and I went thrifting this morning with the plan of "ok, I need 1 pair of pants that fits, and 1 plain shirt". I found both. But I can't go in with "ok, I need 3 nice work shirts and 2 nice work pants in grey and a nice dress for the wedding I have to go to" - that won't work. The less specific, the better. And you have to try on a LOT of clothes. (Ms. Vegetable)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: Oh, and the pants were $5 and the shirt $4, so I think that's ok to spend for transition clothes. :-)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:16 AM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: And congratulations on the weight loss! (I'll stop now.)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: I've never found any sort of selection in the size 14-16 range at thrift stores. Congratulations to robot, but I think that experience is unusual.

Kohls is fairly cheap and the professional womens' department isn't large, so you won't get overwhelmed there like you might at JCPenney's or Macy's. You can spend five minutes, see what there is, and decide if any of it looks interesting without having to go over a whole store.

Target is also easy to visually assess quickly in terms of what they have for your size. I rarely have any luck finding things that are actually cut well there, but someone must, so YMMV.

Ross varies widely in terms of quality - it depends on the individual store manager I suspect - but one nice thing is that all the items of similar type and size are together. So say you want a knit top and you are an XL: There is just one long rack of those and you either see something interesting or you don't. Ditto jeans. Ross is a nice resource to have when you are losing weight because the clothes are cheap enough to not worry about - you can buy something that fits right this week, and not care that in three weeks you'll be too small for it again.

NY & Co has cute things, reasonable prices, a nice variety, goes up to 16, and is not overwhelming. J.Jill is better quality but also more expensive and generally aimed at an older crowd; its sizing and cuts are generous. I wouldn't consider either of their price points to be in the "disposable" zone, esp. J.Jill.

14/16 can be challenging because you aren't really in the zone for the plus size stuff anymore but some "regular" places don't go past 12. Good luck and congrats on the weight loss.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:50 PM on January 7, 2012

Best answer: If you are willing to try thriftng then you might want to reconsider your anti TJ Maxx stance. The strategies for the two stores are basically the same - try on 15 items for every 3 you might like to buy. I have not been successful at thrift stores in the 14-16 range, and have done just fine at TJ Maxx, so I might be biased.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:39 PM on January 7, 2012

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